Risk management should not be in the hands of the “Little Shop of Insurance Horrors” around the corner from your winery. Yet this is exactly what has happened in parts of the USA where wineries have popped up in remote areas in states such as Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The result is an incredible “coverage gap” that puts winery and vineyard owners at great financial risk.
The winery business is unique. Insuring a winery against loss requires a thorough knowledge of the nature of this business. Most often, however, new winery owners often call upon their corner insurance office to bind a commercial policy for them. Since there is not a winery in every community or county, these well-meaning agencies were left to scramble to put something in place, even though these policies were not intended specifically for wineries and vineyards. That’s presented a big problem.
It’s not easy to make sure that winery operators understand the difference between “what they have” and “what they need”. By working with state winery associations, however, there is a chance to educate both operating wineries and those planning to open, about the need to understand all the aspects of their operations where risk enters the picture.
Every year I do an annual tour of state winery association conferences in the Midwest. This year, there has been one remarkable discovery: over 70% of the wineries in operation do not have a proper commercial policy in place for their winery business! And with a very substantial growth predicted over the next 3-5 years, winery operators need to be educated as soon as possible.
How can we fix the coverage gap? This is an important question, because just one weather-caused failure that takes a winery out of business will cause anxiety with existing winery owners and dissuade newcomers from entering what can be a thriving, exuberant, profitable business.
Convincing underwriters to provide coverage for such winery risks is a lot of work. It means that an agency has to hand-hold risk control professionals and take them to wineries so that they can see firsthand what this growing Midwest winery industry is all about; wine production, vineyards, receptions, gift shops, grape stomps, volunteer grape picking, music among the vines, etc.
For the past few years, our group at Tricor did just that, and now we work on behalf of our Midwestern wineries with four regional carriers with comprehensive winery programs and one national carrier with specific winery/vineyard coverage. Working with dedicated professionals who understand the winery business is a winery owner’s best bet for managing risk.
Guest blogger Chuck Andracchio manages the Hospitality Insurance Program for TRICOR Insurance from his office in Dubuque, Iowa. He counts over 30 wineries in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin among his clients. Not satisfied with insurance programs offered to wineries of the Midwest, Chuck motivated regional carriers to enter the unique industry of winery insurance. You can reach him at 1 800 556 5441, ext 1444, or by email to candracchio (at) tricorinsurance.com